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Thumbs up Santa Fe- Palace Press reopens at New Mexico History Museum

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Hot Off the Press: Palace Press Reopens

Artist Gustave Baumanns print studio is the newest exhibit at NM History Museum
Artist Gustave Baumanns print studio is the newest permanent exhibition at the New Mexico History Museum

SANTA FE, NM (July 30, 2009) Attention history, art and literature fans (not to mention newspaper and cowboy-music aficionados): The wait is over. The Press at the Palace of the Governors has reopened its doors to the public after an 18-month renovation, emerging with a new permanent exhibit, Gustave Baumann and the Koshare Press, which re-creates the studio of New Mexicos great 20th century artist-printer. The Palace Press is in the courtyard of the Palace of the Governors, a 400-year-old National Landmark.

Estancia News-Heralds platen press...
The Estancia News-Heralds platen press was the first of the historic presses acquired by the Palace Press.
The 140-year-old adobe rooms of the Palace Press required emergency repairs after a structural failure of part of the floor was discovered in February 2008. Anyone whos dealt with a home renovation knows what happened next: Repairs required the removal of walls, replacement of vigas, installation of support piers, new electrical wiring, fire alarms and baseboard heating and, yes, a new 8-inch-thick reinforced concrete floor. Longhorn Construction served as the contractor.

The print shop rooms, built as stables by the US Army just after the Civil War, were constructed on a previous foundation dating back to the early 1700s. They were used as artist studios and offices after the 1909 conversion of the Palace from a seat of government to the Museum of New Mexico. An archaeological dig at the site found that a section of the rooms were the Palaces privies during the 19th century. New Mexicos Historic Preservation Division and Office of Archaeological Studies evaluated the site during the renovation.

The rooms became the home of the Palace Press in 1970, when the museum acquired most of the contents of the Estancia News-Herald print shop, including a platen press used in 1908 to print Jack Thorps Songs of the Cowboys, the worlds first publication of cowboy ballads. Also in the collection were numerous handbills documenting the daily life of the Estancia Valley from the 1930s to the early 1950s. In contrast to Baumanns fine art prints, copies of the simple handbills promoting everything from big dances and basketball games to World War II black-out drills are posted on the walls in a neighboring exhibit.

This project happened at the same time we were planning and building the New Mexico History Museum right next door, when all of our staff was so intensely focused on that huge undertaking, said Tom Leech, director of the Press. In re-opening the Press, weve had great support from departments all across the museum system. This has been a real testament to teamwork. The wait was worth it. The first visitors to the exhibit have really been wowed.

As keeper of New Mexicos printing heritage, which began in 1834, the Palace Press is more than a collection of machinery. It is also a vital center for the revival, stimulation and pursuit of the book arts. It publishes award-winning, limited-edition books and has a library of more than 500 volumes available for research during museum hours. Recent publications from the print shop are Road to the Clouds House, by New Mexico poets John Brandi and Rene Gregorio, and a portfolio of poetry broadsides by Santa Fes first Poet Laureate, Arthur Sze. The Press is also one of the museums most popular attractions during the annual Christmas at the Palace event, when visitors can assist in printing their own holiday keepsakes.



The Palace Press is open from 10am to 5pm daily Memorial Day to Labor Day. From Labor Day to Memorial Day, the Museum is closed on Mondays. New Mexico History Museum admission is $6 for NM residents; $9 for others; children 16 and under are free. Admission is always free to New Mexico residents on Sundays.


For more information on the Palace Press, contact Tom Leech at (505) 476-5096.



* Photos by Tom Leech, Courtesy of the New Mexico History Museum

 

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